Category Archives: Geology

Lahars (Mudflows) Can’t Be Predicted, But They Can Be Simulated

A View Of Mount Rainier From Seattle’s Elliott Bay

Lahars (mudflows) can’t be predicted but they can be simulated using a special computer application. My latest contribution to the National Parks Traveler is all about this subject, so check out the article by clicking on the image above.

Copyright Rebecca L. Latson, all rights reserved.

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Filed under Geology, Mount Rainier National Park, National Parks, National Parks Traveler

Red Spouter Is A Great Example Of Cool Geology

Red Spouter fumerole at Fountain Paint Pots, Yellowstone National Park during summer 2018
A close-up view of Red Spouter as a fumerole during summer 2018
Red Spouter as a hot spring (or really wet mud pot – take your pick) in the winter (February) of 2022

Geology is such a cool science. I have degrees in geology (which meant, at the time, diddly squat in terms of getting a job, but it was a cool branch of science to study, anyway). Yellowstone National Park is a great place to see geology, past and present. Take Red Spouter, for example.

Before August 1959, Red Spouter did not even exist. In its place was a small grassy hill in the Fountain Paint Pots area. Then, on August 17, 1959, the Hebgen Lake earthquake occurred about 25 miles northwest of Fountain Paint Pots with a magnitude of 7.3. It was quite a shaker and “rippled through Yellowstone,” creating Red Spouter.

The interesting thing about Red Spouter is, depending upon the season, it can be a hot spring, a mudpot, or a fumerole. Back in the summer of 2018, as I was moving from TX to central WA, I stopped for a brief visit to Yellowstone. At the time I explored the Fountain Paint Pots area, Red Spouter was a fumerole (steam vent). During my recent February 2022 visit, I toured the same area while on a snowcoach trip, and Red Spouter was a splashing, muddy red, hot spring (well, maybe you’d call it a mud pot, although it seemed really watery to me).

Why is this? Well, it all depends upon the water table just beneath the surface. If the water table is high, like when snow melts and in the spring, then it’s either a splashing hot spring or a bubbling mudpot. If the water table is low, which it can be during the height of a dry summer (and it’s pretty dry out in Yellowstone, anyway), then Red Spouter is a steam vent.

Geology is cool, and it’s even cooler when you can get nicely-composed photos of that geology, right?

Copyright Rebecca L. Latson, all rights reserved.

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Filed under Geology, National Parks, Photography, Yellowstone National Park

Alien Crash Site? Or Just A Little Hot Spring At Upper Geyser Basin?

This is just a close shot of a very small hot spring (maybe 3 feet in diameter, including the melted ground around it) I saw while walking on the boardwalks at Upper Geyser Basin in Yellowstone National Park one freezing February morning. It was a pretty thing, all bright and distinct against the white snow, and it reminded me of a favorite old 1950’s sci fi movie I watch all the time on my iPad when traveling (I listen to movies while editing photos). Anybody ever seen “The Thing From Another World?” Not the one with Kurt Russell, but the 1951 black-and-white version? To me, that’s a classic. The timing and overlapping of the dialog, the whole black-and-white scenario. I love it. Oh, the special effects are laughable, but I still like it way better than the 1982 film. Maybe it’s an age thing, but to me, the old movies are classics and always will be.

Anyway, where is this going, you may ask? Well, in the 1951 version, at one point, the plane with the scientists and the Airforce personnel are flying over the alien’s frozen-over crash spot, and it looks exactly like this little hot spring’s configuration right here. As a matter of fact, when I spotted this thermal spring, it was the first thing that popped into my head.

So, sometimes, you may photograph the things you see because they remind you of something else, right?

Copyright Rebecca L. Latson, all rights reserved.

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Filed under Geology, National Parks, Photography, Yellowstone National Park

Early Morning At Roaring Mountain

An early autumn morning listening to the low hiss of Roaring Mountain fumeroles, Yellowstone National Park (Wyoming)

This shot was captured on my last day in the park. Actually, I was heading out and back to Bozeman to meet up with some friends, but I was loath to leave the park. I could have stayed there for another week and been happy.

Roaring Mountain doesn’t really roar. Instead, it has a low hiss that is sometimes difficult to hear – especially as cars passed by on the road behind me. All those spots where you see steam issuing forth are from fumeroles – openings that emit steam and other gases.

If you ever visit this national park, take a moment to fathom that you are standing upon a volcanically active (hydrothermally active) landscape. The crust is not quite as thick as you think it might be, which is why it’s good to obey the signs that say “Stay On Trail.”

2022 marks Yellowstone National Park’s 150th birthday. I’m going to try and be there at some point in time to celebrate that year with the park.

Copyright Rebecca L. Latson, all rights reserved.

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Filed under Geology, National Parks, Photography, Travel, Travel and Photography, Wyoming, Yellowstone National Park

Searching For Glaciers In The National Park System

Athabasca Glacier, Jasper National Park, Canada

A few weeks ago, my editor asked me to write an article about being able to see glaciers in national parks. So, I did. It’s been published in today’s edition of the National Parks Traveler. Click on the image to read the article.

As for the image, this is one of the first things you see when you cross the border from Banff National Park into Jasper National Park. You can even buy a ticket to go on a sort of bus kitted out with big honkin’ snow tires and ride out to, and walk onto, the glacier. My parents did it decades ago, and I wish I would have done the same thing, in retrospect. Maybe someday, when Canada lets us back in, I’ll take a little drive back into Jasper National Park and walk on that glacier.

Copyright Rebecca L. Latson, all rights reserved.

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Filed under Geology, glaciers, National Parks, National Parks Traveler, Photography, Travel

Fun Fact Friday: Big Bend Geology

It’s #FunFactFriday so I thought I’d write about the geology seen in Big Bend National Park (Texas). The Chisos Mountains (part of which you see in the image above) are volcanic in origin. One of those volcanic things you’ll see while driving the road through the park are intrusive dikes. Igneous means the rock is volcanic in origin. Dikes are igneous, and they are called “intrusive” because the magma intrudes upon and into the existing rock layers above it. You can see a long stretch of dikes exposed and sticking up out of the ground in this shot. The rocks around the dikes eroded away, leaving those flat-looking walls of rock, sort of like a zig-zaggy-edged rock fence running over the hillsides and up into the mountain flanks.

I’m looking through past Big Bend (as well as other parks) images to see if there are shots I have not edited, or – at the time – didn’t do as good a job of editing. I honestly can’t remember if I ever posted this image or not, back in 2013 (can it be 7 years ago??) captured during my December visit to this national park in southwest Texas. It was my first (out of four) trips there.

Copyright Rebecca L. Latson, all rights reserved.

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Filed under Big Bend National Park, Fun Fact Friday, Geology, National Parks, Photography, Texas, Travel

What’s The Story, Morning Glory?

Morning Glory Pool on an August summer day back in 2018
Morning Glory Pool on a snowy autumn day in October of 2019

On this Trivia Tuesday, did you know that you could once actually drive up to view Morning Glory Pool in Yellowstone National Park, instead of the 1.5-mile walk you take now? You can read about this and other interesting facts about this unique hot spring in today’s edition of the National Parks Traveler.

To read the story, click on either of the images above.

Thanks to people, this pool has changed its colors due to all the trash and coins folks have thrown into the water. Just a reminder: none of those colorful hot springs are wishing wells or trash cans, folks. They are unique, rare, and delicate geologic features that deserve our wonder, respect, and appreciation, not rocks, kleenex, snack wrappers, and coins.

Copyright Rebecca L. Latson, all rights reserved.

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Filed under 5DSR, Canon, Canon 16-35mm f/2.8L III, Canon Lens, Geology, National Parks, National Parks Traveler, Photography, Trivia Tuesday, Yellowstone National Park

It’s Fun Fact Friday 5-8-2020!

Heart Spring

Heart Spring, Upper Geyser Basin, temperature > 190 degrees Fahrenheit

Belgian Pool

Belgian Pool, Upper Geyser Basin, temperature ~ >150 degrees Fahrenheit

Did you know that the colors of the beautiful hot springs you see at Yellowstone National Park indicate the water temperature? Make no mistake, you do NOT want to soak in any of these after a long day hiking. Rule of thumb: the bluer the H2O, the hotter it is. And the orange, yellow, and brown colors you see ringing the springs and leading away from them are thermophilic (heat loving) bacteria.

Copyright Rebecca L. Latson, all rights reserved.

 

 

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Filed under Canon, Fun Fact Friday, Geology, National Parks, Photography, Yellowstone National Park

Fun Fact Friday 4-24-2020

Black Sand Basin Landscape

“Bobby socks” around Opalescent Pool in Black Sand Basin, Yellowstone National Park

"Bobby Socks" At Fountain Paint Pots Nature Trail

“Bobby socks” along the Fountain Paint Pots Nature Trail, Yellowstone National Park

Hey folks, it’s Fun Fact Friday!

If you’ve ever visited Yellowstone National Park, you’ve seen these dead, desolate trees with the white rings around their bases. Those are called “Bobby socks” and are formed when the trees absorb the silica (natural glass) from the thermal waters. This, of course, kills the trees and “freezes” them to keep them standing.

And now you know!

Copyright Rebecca L. Latson, all rights reserved.

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Filed under Canon, Canon Lens, Fun Fact Friday, Geology, National Parks, Photography, Travel, Wyoming, Yellowstone National Park

It’s Trivia Tuesday, 3-31-2020

Sheep Rock And John Day River On An Overcast DayThe Rocks Of Sheep Rock

According to the NPS, Sheep Rock (that pointy-peaked mountain), in the Sheep Rock Unit of John Day Fossil Beds National Monument, gets its name from the bighorn sheep that once populated its slopes. At the top of Sheep Rock is the Picture Gorge Basalt. That brown line across the middle part of the mountain is the Picture Gorge Ignimbrite (pumice and volcanic tuff). This ignimbrite makes a nice marker bed by which geologists can place and date geologic events. The green soils you see in the second image are colored by the mineral celadonite. Celadonite comes from the French word for “sea green.”

And now you know.

Copyright Rebecca L. Latson, all rights reserved.

 

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Filed under 5DS, Canon, Geology, John Day Fossil Beds National Monument, National Monuments, Oregon, Photography, Travel, Trivia Tuesday